A friend and member of the writing email group I spoke about yesterday made the following comment in response to my post – To Write or Not to Write.
I’m also a firm believer in “never say never,” though. Karen, if you don’t feel like writing right now, I think you should absolutely feel free to not write–but it’s not necessary to make a decision about writing/not writing for the rest of your life. There’s some psychological basis for this that makes sense to me–when we say things like “that’s it, I’m giving up writing for good” it makes it harder for us to go back on that decision if, say, we do feel like writing in six months or a year’s time. It’s really quite impossible to make most decisions “for good.” All we can do is make decisions that feel right to us at the present. Making decisions based on the present, for the present, leaves the doors open to us to change our minds in the future.
I found myself thinking about this comment last night and again this morning. These are my thoughts:
I started writing to fill a void in my life. I was desperate to visit exciting worlds of my own creation because the real world was lacking. That void no longer exists so I no longer need that escape.
The need to write was gone so I came up with another reason to write – publication – and for many years I wrote with publication in mind. I grew a thick skin and shrugged rejections away (after quickly noting any constructive criticism I may have received). I learned the ins and outs of the craft. I practiced and then I practiced some more. I knew what had to be done and set about providing exactly that. (I’m not saying I achieved that goal, but I tried hard.)
In this time, I tried to tell myself that the passion I once felt was still there, but in all honesty…it wasn’t. The stories I wrote when I had that void came easily. I wrote for hours on end, long into the night. I wrote at lunchtime, I stole ten or so minutes here and there during work hours, I wrote while on holiday and while visiting people, I wrote in the car. I wrote every second I could. But…the stories I wrote after the void was filled were a constant struggle. I had to force myself to write. I bribed myself and often had to set public goals in order to get anything done. It became hard work because my heart wasn’t in it like it once was.
Then, the closer I got to better writing and possible publication, the worse it became. People (family and friends) started to expect something of me. This just put pressure on me and the pressure made the words dry up even more. How can I walk away when everyone I know thinks I’m going to become famous? They are not writers, they don’t realise how hard the industry is. But I always tried to think of their words as encouragement as they obviously thought I could do it. I love them for that. How does a person concentrate when people are continually asking “are you published yet?” or “Have you finished another novel/story yet?” or “When are you submitting to a publisher?” or “When you’re rich, will you buy me a … *insert extremely expensive item*?”
It was all pressure. Well meaning words that were meant as support and encouragement, but pressure nonetheless. It might sound as if I’m scared of failure. I’m not. I’m scared of success and I feel positive that is the thing that is holding me back.
I’ve gone to book launches, I’ve watched authors being interviewed on TV and I’ve heard them interviewed on the radio too. They all have a pleasant way about them. They smiled, they laughed, they cracked jokes, they seemed comfortable and self assured. None of that is me. The whole thing terrifies me. If I fail, I don’t have to face any of that and I’m happy with that thought. If I succeed…I’d be lucky to crack a joke and get one person to laugh out loud. There’s no way I would be able to crack a smile, I’d be too petrified.
The thing I have to figure out is am I thinking of quitting because I really don’t want to write or because I really don’t want to face the consequences of success. The stupid thing is, no one has a guarantee of publication…or success. It might never happen even if I wrote and wrote right up to the moment I die.
Why not write for the enjoyment then? Do people really do that? For me, there has to be a reason. I know that doesn’t really make sense. I play the Playstation for enjoyment. Some might consider that a complete waste of time as there’s nothing to show for my time when I turn the console off and that would be a true statement. But when I play games, I don’t expect anything from it. I suppose I do expect something from writing and I can’t imagine writing just for writing sake. I guess I’m of the opinion that if a person writes they should be aiming for something – namely publication.
Anyway, a friend said “never say never” and in reply to that comment I can safely say that if I find myself wanting to put pen to paper in six months, a year or a decade…I would. I just thought of something else. Maybe I want to be anonymous
again. Maybe not having family and friends expecting something great from me would do the trick. Maybe that would take the pressure away and give me back the enjoyment. Deep inside, I think the problem is really concerning the lack of passion in what I’m doing. Without passion, what’s the point?